During Convene in Vilnius (February 8-9), we had the chance to talk to Remigijus Šimašius, Mayor of Vilnius since 2015.
He shared with us his visions and strategies, explained us the new concepts that he follows to ensure that Vilnius is competitive for making business, reported us about the new City Economic Development Agency GoVilnius and much more.
There was a lot he could tell us – thus, we will divide the interview into two articles. The second one follows next week. So please stay tuned.
1. What is your strategy for the city in the next years? Your vision for Vilnius?
A rapidly and sustainably growing city with a rich historical heritage, ample career opportunities and good work-life balance. Our city’s residents are generally satisfied with life in Vilnius, and this is clear not only from surveys like the recent Eurostat survey that ranked us Europe’s Happiest Capital, but also from the fact that the population of Vilnius is steadily growing, attracting more and more people, including that key demographic: young people. By 2021, 25-to-39-year-olds will comprise nearly one-third of our city’s population.
At the same time, Vilnians expect steady improvements, especially in governance and government services. To overcome the legacy of the past, structural changes are necessary. My team and I are working tirelessly to make deep and fundamental changes to the way our city runs. That includes city branding, marketing, and talent and business attraction. For a long time, these important tasks were done in an ad hoc or inconsistent way. We have taken the step of creating the city’s first international development agency, Go Vilnius, which will approach these challenges more systematically and work with partners like our national investment promotion agency Invest Lithuania to do everything possible to optimise conditions for companies and individuals to make the move to Vilnius.
We are also stepping up our investment into smart solutions that will take greater advantage of big data and technology.
2. What are the new concepts that you follow to ensure that Vilnius is competitive for making business there?
We are working hard to ensure a responsive bureaucracy that is welcoming to new business and talent. We are also capitalising on the strengths we already have, including a strong scientific tradition, especially in lasers and life sciences, and a nearly ideal infrastructure and investment environment for fintech as well as other ICT industries. Of course, business and talent moves to a city not only because it looks good on paper.
Companies that have already made the move, including large shared services centres like those of Barclays, Western Union, AIG and dozens of others, tell us that the best thing about Vilnius is our people. They tell me our talented, flexible and industrious labor force is exactly what they need to succeed. So they find themselves growing successfully here and hiring not just our local people, but even attracting workers from abroad.
And almost everyone who makes the move notes that Vilnius offers a quality lifestyle. Our marketing research indicates, for example, that people know and remember Vilnius first and foremost as a city of arts and culture. We have a remarkable amount of creative talent and cultural activities for a mid-sized city like ours. Vilnius is also very obviously green – and you can see this as you fly over the city in an airplane or hot air balloon, if you take a kayak down one of our two rivers or a walk or bike on some of the many trails that encircle the city. Nearly half of our urban territory is green space.
We Lithuanians are known for our love of nature, and we make sure to keep it close by, even in our cities. But for too long, we Vilnians have been modest and kept this marvelous secret more or less to ourselves. But if we want to stay competitive and attract the talent and investment we need for that, we need to be more outgoing and vocal about what Vilnius offers. So we are ramping up our marketing efforts significantly and I am convinced that once we get the word out to more people around the world, we will see an influx of talent and investment into Vilnius the likes of which will be astonishing.
3. You have taken the initiative to create the new City Economic Development Agency Go Vilnius. How does this help international planners of congresses? What new services can they find?
Go Vilnius incorporates the Vilnius Convention Bureau into our general and more concerted efforts to promote business and investment in Vilnius. We understand very well the value that the international meetings industry creates – not just in terms of tourism income, but, more importantly, the powerful impact it can have on economic development. International meetings bring ideas and talent – the two most important drivers of value-creation in a 21st century economy.
Go Vilnius will bring this into focus and stimulate the development of international networks that connect local minds and talent with experts from other countries, especially in priority industries. Such seeds have the potential to bear valuable fruit in the future in the form of new collaboration between Vilnians and the rest of the world. As for the services, you will find access through Go Vilnius not only to all of the planning information and support that the Convention Bureau provides, but improved connections to networks of key industries, businesspeople, policy makers and talent through the Go Vilnius business unit.
Stay tuned for the second part of the interview…
Your contact in Vilnius:
Head of Vilnius Tourism and Convention Bureau
Go Vilnius | The official international economic
development agency of the City of Vilnius
tel. +370 5 212 1833
Your contact at tmf:
Project Manger Content & PR
+49 931 9002 114